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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-06-25

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 25 June 2010 Issue No: 3526


  • [01] PM Papandreou: 'Aim of terrorists will not be achieved'
  • [02] PM highlights efforts for economy's recovery
  • [03] PM chairs meeting on pension reform bills
  • [04] Alt. FM meets with German counterpart
  • [05] Samaras addresses ND pre-congress thematic event on ecumenical Hellenism
  • [06] ND decries port interruptions
  • [07] KKE's Papariga visits Volos
  • [08] Karatzaferis on KKE; social insurance
  • [09] MP Kouvelis says new leftist party pending
  • [10] Parliament president meets French, German deputy ministers
  • [11] Education ministry announces date for results of university entrance exams
  • [12] Ecumenical Patriarch meets Montenegro president
  • [13] FinMin addresses Hellenic Bank Association general assembly
  • [14] NBG's Rapanos: Greek banks well placed to overcome crisis
  • [15] Sahinidis clarifies aims of Financial Stability Fund
  • [16] Katseli holds talks with deputy European Affairs ministers
  • [17] Greece's IMF representative on economy
  • [18] Deputy minister on oil and natural gas
  • [19] Commission refers Greece to EU Court over raft of issues
  • [20] Small manufacturers' federation urges members to support workers' protests against pension reform
  • [21] National Bank announces 15-billion-euros covered bond programme
  • [22] ATE Insurance transfers share of ATE Mutual Funds to ATEBank
  • [23] Probe into 'Hermes' telecoms programme
  • [24] VAT increases to 23 pct from July 1
  • [25] Stocks end sharply lower
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [29] First Greek woman athlete to swim across Gibraltar Strait reminisces on feat
  • [30] Papoulias received young pupils from Rizokarpasso
  • [31] Awards to ethnic Greeks of Albania university students
  • [32] 20 indictments in Panagopoulos abduction case
  • [33] Tables cleared from Monastiraki's Dimopratiriou Square
  • [34] Cloudy on Friday
  • [35] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou: 'Aim of terrorists will not be achieved'

    Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed his grief and abhorrrence over the bomb attack at the Citizen's Protection ministry on Thursday night that cost the life of the minister's adjutant.

    "I express my grief and indignation, the grief and indignation that every Greek citizen feels over today's terrorist attack, that resulted in the loss of a human life.

    "In a period when the country and our people are waging a daily struggle for the exit from the crisis, cowardly murderers want to deal a blow at normalcy and our democracy, Greek society, the interests of the Greek citizens and the sacrifices that they are making today for the country to stand on its feet.

    "Those investing in illegality and force will receive their reply not only from the state, but from our society as well in its entirety. The aim of the terrorists will not be achieved. The government, society, the citizens will not be terrorised. I express personally and on behalf of the government my warm condolences and our support to the family of dead police officer George Vassilakis."

    Citizen's Protection Minister

    Confirming, earlier, his adjutant's death, George Vassilakis, 52, Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrisohoidis's said he lost a valuable associate and friend.

    The bomb attack occured just after 8 p.m. at the adjutant's office on the seventh floor of the ministry's building.

    "I lost a friend, a valuable associate and father of two children," the minister said, adding that "those who murdered him will be brought to justice. Our struggle will continue against terrorism."

    Chrysohoidis also said that the bomb was destined for himself, but his adjutant paid with his life.

    Police are investigating how the explosive device was brought into the ministry and reached the 7th floor.

    According to ministry sources, all the security systems and weapons and explosives detection devices were functioning normally. However, it is considered almost certain that the bomb was in a parcel that was destined for the minister, but it was opened by his adjutant, as he always did with mail.

    Details of the case are expected to be announced when the investigation is completed.

    President Papoulias condemns terrorist attack

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias expressed his deep grief and indignation over the killing of the Citizen's Protection Minister's adjutant in a terrorist attack at the ministry on Thursday night.

    "I want to express, with deep sorrow and indignation, my sympathy to the family of George Vassilakis. The Greek state will stand by their side. I am certain that this murder will not remain unpunished. For the vindication of the dead and our democracy," Papoulias said in a statement.

    ND leader Samaras

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras made the following statement:

    "It is a hideous and unprecedented criminal attack, that cost the life of a human being and gravely offended the Law and Democracy. In the face of such cases of monstrosity we place the unity of our people and our absolute decision to tackle the evil at its root. I express my deep regret and I jointly suffer with the family of the victim."

    Earlier Samaras had telephoned to Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and was briefed "on the explosion at his adjutant's office and expressed his shock and support over the slaying of his adjutant," according to a party's press release.

    KKE leader

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga also condemned on Thursday night the bomb attack against the Citizen's Protection Ministry that resulted in the killing of the minister's adjutant.

    Papariga was addressing a party rally in the central Greek city of Volos.

    LAOS party deplores

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party deplored on Thursday night the death of Citizen's Protection Minister's adjutant, George Vassilakis, in a bomb attack at the ministry.

    "The death in a terrorist attack of a valuable officer of the Greek Police causes great grief. At the same time, we remain with strong queries regarding the efficiency of the ministry. When terrorists can strike in the office of the minister himself, how can the citizen feel secure in his neighbourhood or home," LAOS said in a statement.

    SYRIZA statement

    The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said in an announcement regarding the bomb attack at the Citizen's Protection ministry and the killing of the minister's adjutant that "it is an act that can only be condemned unequivocally. SYRIZA has its own framework of values that does not compromise with force, even more so when it takes a human life."

    The announcement added that "we are experiencing extremely difficult moments. Greek society, particularly the working people and young people, are being pressured unbearably by the policy of the government. Unfortunately, we cannot be optimistic today."

    [02] PM highlights efforts for economy's recovery

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing Thursday's cabinet meeting, stressed that the great effort to reverse the country's disastrous course has started with success, adding that both the government's efforts and mainly the sacrifices of the Greek people are already being recognised.

    The prime minister said that the "course until now was not easy and the decisions taken were necessary to save the country, to enable us to be in a position today to pay salaries and pensions." In addition, as he said, "this effort aims at Greece never finding itself in the same position again and for this reason the deeper causes must be tackled that led to the current situation, which can only be handled with radical changes and reforms."

    Papandreou referred to his government's work over the eight-month period in office and stressed that the policies being applied "will allow us to exit permanently from the vicious circle of delay, inequality, the lack of the welfare state, low competitiveness as well as from the deficits and the debts."

    The prime minister further said that "it is our duty to secure that the state is in a position to pay pensions in the long run with a viable system and that this will be taking place with the greatest social justice possible. It is our duty to shape an employment environment that will protect, support and give opportunities to the most vulnerable citizens, and will also help the country to become more modern and more competitive."

    Papandreou once again rejected criticism that the Greek problem is due to the welfare state and underlined that Greece's problem was the management of both the welfare state and of the state in general. He added that the issue of competitiveness does not concern the welfare state, as it has also been proved in countries of the European north where it is being applied.

    He raised again the issue of the increase of the EU's own sources and mentioned that if a small tax was applied on fiscal transactions in the region of 0.05 percent, Europe could have revenues amounting to about 240 billion euros which would constitute a very considerable source. The issue of the increase of own sources through the imposition of the specific tax on fiscal transactions, a new tax on carbon dioxide and the issuing of Eurobonds will be raised, as Papandreou said, in discussions that will follow in the European Union on the new budget.

    As regards the bills discussed during Thursday's cabinet meeting, on the bill concerning fiscal management and responsibility and which will be tabled in Parliament by June 30, Papandreou stressed that it constitutes the first big step for the reforming of the budget that will be completed by 2013.

    Lastly, concerning the Environment ministry's bill, the prime minister said that the targets for Greece are the increase in the contribution of renewable energy sources to the energy balance and the decrease of gas emissions.

    [03] PM chairs meeting on pension reform bills

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday chaired a meeting with the ministers involved in the drafting of bills for reforming Greece's pension system in the public and private sectors, one day before these are presented to the full cabinet.

    The meeting focused on technical aspects of the two bills and was attended by Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos, Deputy Labour Minister George Koutroumanis, Minister of State Haris Pamboukis and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou. During its course, there were decisions on a number of issues that had been left open.

    It was followed by a session of the Cabinet that discussed matters linked to the preparation of three-year budgets, the Financial Stability Fund and the environment ministry's 20-20-20 programme.

    [04] Alt. FM meets with German counterpart

    Alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas met on Thursday with German deputy foreign minister Dr. Wolf-Ruthart Born (state secretary of the federal foreign office).

    With the support program finalised by the eurozone leaders for the stabilisation of the Greek economy, support of Europe as a whole and the euro currency are also achieved, and it is very important in the present stage that such messages of support are given, Droutsas said after the meeting.

    Expressing satisfaction that Greece has Germany at its side, Droutsas outlined an extensive framework of cooperation that is commencing in many sectors, as set out in the Joint Communique signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Marcy 5.

    This "unprecedented", as described by Born, cooperation concerns specific synergies in the sectors of the environment, climate and energy policy, civil protection, health, transports, migration, education and tourism as well as cultural exchanges between the two countries.

    Further, after lengthy talks between the diplomatic delegations of the two countries, it was announced that the German government will contribute know-how and consultative services for the creation of a Developmental Fund in Greece (following the model of the corresponding German fund) that will support and finance private investments.

    [05] Samaras addresses ND pre-congress thematic event on ecumenical Hellenism

    "Without the help of the Greeks abroad, we will not be able to rebuild the country the way it deserves," main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras said on Thursday, addressing the party's first Ecumenical Hellenism conference held in the context of the thematic pre-congresses being organised ahead of the upcoming ND 8th Congress.

    "You are the best part of Hellenism," Samaras told the delegates, and pledged that when ND takes over the government it will see to three items of priority, namely getting rid of the bureaucracy so that overseas Greeks can settle their problems without needing to go through all the red tape, boosting the teaching of the Greek language abroad, especially to the children of the overseas Greeks, and creating the conditions for the repatriation of all those who wish to return to Greece.

    On the issue of absentee voting for the Greeks abroad, he said that ND had tried to achieve this but had met with big resistance. "You know from whom. But I promise that we will try again, and this time we will succeed," Samaras said, adding that in the age of the internet distances are negated. "The Greek communities abroad have a say in Greece's destiny, and they should have a loud voice in its democracy. We promised you this, and we tried. I promise to try again, and this time we will succeed," he said.

    [06] ND decries port interruptions

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Thursday again called on political parties to assume their share of responsibility, referring to mobilizations by seamen's supporters -- mostly backed by the communist party-affiliated PAME grouping -- at the port of Piraeus.

    "We cannot block access to seaports and then expect that there will be no impact on the tourism sector," he stressed, adding that what happened in the port of Piraeus cannot and should not be repeated because such mobilisations hurt the country's economy.

    Panagiotopoulos said ND calls on the political parties, authorities and trade unionists to agree on a new social contract ensuring that protests will take place in such a way that economy will be allowed to operate without interruptions.

    [07] KKE's Papariga visits Volos

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga visited the port city of Volos, central Greece, on Thursday.

    Papariga visited the steel company VEMEKEP S.A. and the milk production company EVOL where she met with employees.

    The KKE general secretary underlined that workers will have to resist the "labour dark ages we are experiencing," adding that the people are not responsible and should not shoulder the tough economic measures imposed by the government.

    On Thursday afternoon, Papariga will give a press conference and address a political event.

    [08] Karatzaferis on KKE; social insurance

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) President George Karatzaferis lashed out at the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its affiliated PAME labour grouping on Thursday, referring to the recent incidents and blockades at the port of Piraeus.

    Karatzaferis charged that KKE is using PAME and stressed that "for as long as the government will be afraid to face PAME these provocations will intensify."

    As regards the social insurance issue, the LA.OS president stated that "we make more sacrifices than we should."

    [09] MP Kouvelis says new leftist party pending

    Parliament deputy Fotis Kouvelis, who has emerged as the head of the breakaway "renewalist wing" of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party, confirmed on Thursday that the establishment of a "renewalist and democratic left party", as he called it, will be announced soon.

    In a radio interview, Kouvelis said "social correlations are being redefined and seek their own political expression ... the new political party will not be established to function as a supplement of another political power."

    [10] Parliament president meets French, German deputy ministers

    Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos on Thursday received the visiting Deputy European Affairs Ministers of France, Pierre Lellouche, and Germany, Werner Hoyer.

    The two deputy ministers declared afterwards that ęGreece is moving in the right direction in order to exit the crisis."

    They also said that their visit to Greece this week signaled a message of solidarity on the part of France and Germany.

    "We want to demonstrate our determination in support of Greece, which we consider an inseparable member of the European family," they stressed.

    "We all support each other in a common cause," they added, noting that their own countries, as well as non-eurozone countries, such as Britain, were forced to take painful economic measures in order to tackle the crisis.

    On his part, Petsalnikos noted that the European Union "can and must have a future, if we all coordinate our actions towards the same target, stability and growth. A strong economy does not concern only governments but peoples as well."

    [11] Education ministry announces date for results of university entrance exams

    The education ministry on Thursday announced that the marking of papers in the nationwide university entrance examinations will be completed by the end of June, with the final results posted in highschools throughout the country on July 7.

    The marking of exam papers and the announcement of results has been delayed relative to previous years due to strike action by exam markers protesting over cuts in pay.

    [12] Ecumenical Patriarch meets Montenegro president

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met at the Fanar on Thursday with President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovi who was accompanied by government officials.

    "Talks focused on issues of common interest including the inter-religious dialogue and the Patriarch's contribution to the peaceful coexistence of peoples," according to Fanar sources.

    Financial News

    [13] FinMin addresses Hellenic Bank Association general assembly

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, addressing the Hellenic Bank Association's (EET) general assembly on Thursday, appealed to the boards of Greek banks to "proceed with the big moves that will secure the future of the banking system."

    The minister stressed that the state supports, together with the European Central Bank, the local banking system and the banks in turn should "support themselves" and in extension the Greek economy and the households.

    Addressing the bankers, he said that it is time to look at the remuneration terms for their senior officials, as well as to safeguard the liquidity terms for households and businesses.

    The state, he added, has supported the Greek banking system with the 28 billion euros package, it recently increased the sector of guarantees by 15 billion euros and is prepared to do it more if necessary.

    The Finance minister appeared absolutely optimistic over the fiscal restructuring effort and in general over the implementation of the Greek economy's three-year adjustment programmne.

    The measures taken by the government are already baring fruit, the deficit has decreased by 39 percent in the first five months, while the revenues registered an increase of 8 percent and the decrease in expenditures amounts to 10 perecent. The minister underlined that the foundations have been laid and there is optimism that the state budget exceeds the targets that have been set.

    [14] NBG's Rapanos: Greek banks well placed to overcome crisis

    Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) president Vassilis Rapanos on Thursday stressed that Greek banks, despite the economic crisis and repeated downgrading of Greek state bonds by international ratings agencies, have demonstrated considerable endurance and, with the assistance of the ECB, will be able to overcome the difficult period.

    Rapanos, who is the president of the board of National Bank of Greece (NBG), spoke during the introduction of NBG's study on the Greek banking system for 2009, unveiled on the occasion of the bank's annual general assembly on Thursday.

    Moreover, he said the domestic banking system's stamina can be attributed to a series of factors, the most important of which are that Greek banks were not exposed to toxic investments, while they retain a strong capital base and increased risk management and predictions in line with the crisis.

    [15] Sahinidis clarifies aims of Financial Stability Fund

    Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sahinidis on Thursday clarified that the Financial Stability Fund set up to support Greek banks - using 10 billion euros from the funds borrowed by the Greek government as part of the EU/IMF bailout package - will not support banks' liquidity but boost their equity capital if this was needed.

    Briefing Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee, Sahinidis said the aim of the fund was to discourage speculators from betting on an inability of Greece's banking system to weather the crisis. He stressed that the fund would not deal with liquidity issues, which would be covered by existing arrangements, but to protect the system's capital adequacy.

    The creation of the Financial Stability Fund was a condition included in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Greek government when it resorted to the European support mechanism.

    The measure was criticised by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Angelos Tzekis, who said that banks had already received billions of euros guaranteed by the Greek State and Greek tax-payers were now being asked to once again shoulder the burden of a potential bank failure.

    The right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Ilias Polatidis said Greece and Europe had become "bank-centric", since banks were being pampered in relation to other businesses and not allowed to fail when they made mistakes.

    "If the government tries to help shipyards threatened with closure, the Commission intervenes and says it is distorting free competition. Here, however, it is saying that we must save the banks and divert 10 percent of the funds of the Memorandum to this cause," he noted.

    The MoU signed by Greece calls for a Financial Stability Fund in order to maintain the stability of the Greek banking system by providing equity capital in case of a significant decline of capital buffers. The equity will be provided in the form of preference shares to Greek banks and will be convertible to ordinary shares at a later stage. The purchase of preference shares will be done in cash. Participation in the fund will be based on a trigger linked to the minimum required level of capital adequacy requirements, as established for specific credit institutions by the Bank of Greece.

    The fund will be exclusively financed through its own resources lent by the Greek government, using part of the loans granted in the EU/IMF programme, so that the risk of losses arising out of the funds operation will lie exclusively with the Greek government as the primary shareholder in the fund, which would also be obliged to repay the loans granted in the EU/IMF programme.

    [16] Katseli holds talks with deputy European Affairs ministers

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli held talks on Thursday with the Deputy European Affairs Ministers of France Pierre Lellouche and Germany Werner Hoyer, focusing on the absorptiveness of ESPA funds and the promotion of the new development law.

    The meeting took place in Parliament and lasted for about half an hour.

    [17] Greece's IMF representative on economy

    Panagiotis Roumeliotis, Greece's representative at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said on Thursday that the IMF's assessments regarding the Greek economy's restructuring programme were so far positive and the disbursing of the second instalment of the loan to Greece was secured.

    Roumeliotis, who was the main speaker at the congress of Greece's Association of Retail Sales Enterprises, termed "important" the IMF's and the European Central Bank's (ECB) contribution in the handling of the economic crisis.

    He also predicted that the first results regarding the Greek economy's recovery and growth will appear in two years time and assessed that the country's banking system will continue functioning without problems.

    Finally Roumeliotis said that if the IMF "had not supported the whole effort, then bankruptcy was certain and would have led to the destabilisation of the eurozone."

    [18] Deputy minister on oil and natural gas

    Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Giannis Maniatis, speaking in an interview with the Real radio private station on Thursday, announced the starting of probes for oil and natural gas in one year.

    "The indications we have in the national territorial waters are quite strong, so as to convince us that we must speedily create a Public agency that with meritocracy and full transparency will proclaim tenders so that serious investors will come to search for oil in our country," the deputy minister said.

    [19] Commission refers Greece to EU Court over raft of issues

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris, M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission on Thursday initiated procedures for referring Greece to the European Court of Justice over a raft of issues involving delays in implementing European regulations.

    These included sending a reasoned opinion, the second stage in referring a country to the EU court, for delays in implementing Community directives concerning the services sector, which should have been in force since December 28. This was also sent to Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

    The Commission further demanded that Greece comply with an EU Court decision on medical equipment purchases and ensure equal access to contracts for handling medical waste in Attica. If the Commission finds that Greece has failed to comply, it will send the case back to the EU court and ask that Greece be fined.

    In its case against Greece, the Commission charged that the tenders organised by hospitals for the procurement of medical supplies were biased and tended to exclude any supplier with CE products from submitting bids to supply man Greek State hospitals. The Commission also found that Greek state hospitals did not always accept the lowest offer, thus wasting tax payers money.

    It also found that Greek authorities had directly signed a contract worth 2.2 million euros for the handling of hazardous medical waste without first holding a open tender, in accordance with EU rules. Having received no formal reply to its warning letter and reasoned opinion, the EU Commission has decided to refer the case to the European court.

    In addition to the above, the Commission has decided to refer Greece and seven other EU countries to the EU court for delays in implementing a directive on the rights of shareholders, Greece and three other EU countries for failing to incorporate EU environmental legislation on waste management into their national law, Greece and 12 other countries for failing to implement EU legislation on deregulating the market for railways in the EU, as well as demanding that Greece and 11 other EU member-states urgently update national laws on radio and television programmes in order to comply with the directive on "audiovisual communication media services" designed to deal with the challenges of the digital era and regulate services such as Internet TV, mobile TV and others.

    [20] Small manufacturers' federation urges members to support workers' protests against pension reform

    The presidency of the General Confederation of Professionals, Artisans and Merchants of Greece (GSEBEE) on Thursday urged its member-federations to participate en masse in the protest rallies being organised by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on June 29 to protest against the changes in the pension system planned by the government.

    The federation representing most of Greece's small and medium-sized manufacturing units and mercantile businesses stressed in a statement that "business initiative, especially for SMEs, is a participatory process of employers and employees and should not be undermined by creating the uncertain and especially dangerous insecure environment that is presaged with the new social insurance bill for employers and employees that is now being drawn up."

    GSEBEE's leadership stressed that the government did not seem to be taking the impact of the social insurance bill on growth into account and predicted "negative repercussions on the economic result we all hope for, in order to stop the economic and social downhill slide".

    It urged local federations to choose the form of mobilisation they judged most effective in their area.

    [21] National Bank announces 15-billion-euros covered bond programme

    The National Bank of Greece on Thursday announced a second programme for the issue of covered bonds worth 15 billion euros in order to boost liquidity by using some of its assets.

    In the specific programme, assets that the bonds will also be backed by the bank's claims from mortgages in euros and foreign currency.

    NBG said that it has already issued first three series of covered bonds with a combined size of 3.0 billion euros. The bonds are five-year, seven-year and nine-year issues with a floating interest rate pegged to the European Central Bank rates, with additional margins of 1.7 percent, 2.00 percent and 2.3 percent respectively.

    The specific bonds have been given a Baa3 rating from Moody's.

    [22] ATE Insurance transfers share of ATE Mutual Funds to ATEBank

    ATE Insurance on Thursday completed the transfer of its 46 percent share in the ATE group's subsidiary ATE Mutual Funds Management Company to ATEBank.

    [23] Probe into 'Hermes' telecoms programme

    A first instance court prosecutor investigating a section of the Siemens bribery scandal case filed felony charges on Thursday against all responsible in relation with the Hellenic Army "Hermes" telecommunications programme.

    The charges filed include fraud, attempted fraud and embezzlement, jointly committed against the state.

    The case file will be assigned to an examining magistrate to rule whether it will be forwarded to the Court of Appeals to be linked with the investigation into the core of the Siemens case conducted by Court of Appeals examining magistrates.

    According to the case evidence, the Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. (EAB) in 1999 was assigned to proceed with the construction of phase 2 of "Hermes" programme with an estimated budget of roughly 300 million euros. Siemens was the designer and subcontractor. The Greek State has suffered damage considering that the programme in question had to be completed in 2006 which never happened.

    [24] VAT increases to 23 pct from July 1

    The rates of Value Added Tax (VAT) are to rise as of July 1, based on a tax bill recently passed by Parliament.

    The regular VAT rate on most goods will increase from 21 percent at present to 23 percent, while the reduced rate of 10 percent currently charged on a range of goods and services will be increased to 11 percent. The lowest rate of 5 percent will increase to 5.5 percent.

    The increases will also affect island areas, where VAT rates currently have a 30 percent reduction. As of July 1, the rates of 15 percent, 7 percent and 4 percent will rise to 16 percent, 8 percent and 4 percent.

    The change will affect all invoices and receipts issued after July 1, even when they refer to transactions conducted before that date.

    [25] Stocks end sharply lower

    Stocks again ended sharply lower in very thin trading conditions in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, falling below the 1,500-point level. The composite index dropped 3.71 pct to end at 1,468.86 points, with turnover a low 85.753 million euros.

    The Big Cap index dropped 4.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.66 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 3.96 pct.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 154 to 35 with another 36 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.70%

    Industrials: -2.66%

    Commercial: -1.42%

    Construction: -3.33%

    Media: -2.69%

    Oil & Gas: -2.78%

    Personal & Household: -2.09%

    Raw Materials: -7.60%

    Travel & Leisure: -5.50%

    Technology: -6.38%

    Telecoms: -2.40%

    Banks: -4.48%

    Food & Beverages: -4.80%

    Health: -1.07%

    Utilities: -1.00%

    Chemicals: -3.78%

    Financial Services: -4.49%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP and Coca Cola.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 4.17

    ATEbank: 1.03

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.65

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.39

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.80

    National Bank of Greece: 9.26

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.82

    OPAP: 10.57

    OTE: 6.10

    Bank of Piraeus: 3.51

    Titan: 14.70

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 58 million euros on Thursday, of which 34 million were sell orders and the remaining 24 million euros were buy orders. The three-year benchmark bond (March 20, 2012) and the ten-year benchmark bond (June 19, 2020) were the most heavily traded securities with a turnover of 11 million euros each. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 7.88 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 10.48 pct and the German Bund 2.60 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained mostly unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.29 pct, the six-month rate 1.02 pct, the three-month 0.74 pct and the one-month rate 0.45 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.03 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover totaling 33.940 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,734 contracts worth 26.724 million euros, with 25.032 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,847 contracts worth 7.216 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,638), followed by OPAP (950), OTE (726), Alpha Bank (588), Piraeus Bank (559), Eurobank (419), Intracom (308).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.236

    Pound sterling 0.825

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 9.650

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    General News

    [29] First Greek woman athlete to swim across Gibraltar Strait reminisces on feat

    A year has passed since Danai Menexiadi became the first Greek woman athlete to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar.

    The 34-year-old long distance swimmer from Thessaloniki completed the one-way cross on June 9, 2009, in 4 hours and 48 minutes, setting off from Tarifa Island in Spain and finishing at Leona Point in Morocco.

    During the crossing, Menexiadi not only braved adverse weather conditions and strong currents, sharks and large fish, but she did so without wearing a neoprene suit for protection against the low water temperatures, at the spot where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea and connects Europe with Africa.

    An office employee, Menexiadi trains early every morning, all-year-round, at 6:00 a.m. before going to work, and several times a week she also trains at night.

    The sea, for her, is an outlet from the every-day humdrum. "I can't imagine even a day going by without training or without the sea. I don't stop even in the winter, except for a few occasions when the weather is extremely bad," she tells ANA-MPA.

    On last year's feat, she remembers: "The currents at that point are very strong, and if the swimmer is not careful and does not have a good escort, things can get very bad and he/she may not finish. But the most important thing to remember is that the water temperature is very low, and the spot is a major crossing for large merchant ships."

    "From the very first moment, the only thing on my mind was reaching the finish. I believed deep down inside that I would make it to the finish. It is a big feat to start in Europe and finish in Africa. To do this, it took me a year of preparation," she adds.

    "Throughout the effort, thousands of thoughts cross your mind. It is the moment when you need to have a strong personality and determination to achieve your goal. I set out on this adventure armed with determination. The crossing is some 16-18 kilometers, but due to the strong currents and winds, it easily becomes 21-22 kilometers. The finish is not at any specifically designated point, the goal is to touch the African continent," she explains.

    "What I will never forget is the cold I felt when I reached the Moroccan coast, as the water temperature was barely 16C. My heart felt ready to stop and I was numb all over. The good thing is that I had prepared well and was in good spirits, thanks to my trainer Nikolas Repanis who encouraged me and gave me useful advice throughout the crossing. Nor will I forget that every half hour I would stop to eat something very light and drink water with lemon and honey to replenish the energy lost during the effort. And all this without touching the accompanying boat, because that would have invalidated my effort," Menexiadi continues.

    She also remembers the curiosity-seekers, the crews of merchant ships who would bring their vessels to where the action was taking place to see what was going on. "It is terrifying to see these huge bulks passing so close by you and raising waves, which you then have to pass through."

    One year after this difficult feat, the memories vivid as she ponders and plans her next venture.

    [30] Papoulias received young pupils from Rizokarpasso

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received visiting students from Rizokarpasso High School in the occupied northern part of Cyprus at the presidential mansion.

    The pupils offered local products to the president, who expressed a hope that the Cyprus issue will be settled.

    [31] Awards to ethnic Greeks of Albania university students

    The Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Ethnic Greeks of Albania (IAOA) 4th annual awards were presented to Ioannina University graduate and post-graduate students, in recognition of their academic performance.

    A total of 11 prizes were awarded for the academic year 2009-2010, five of them to graduate and six to post-graduate students, all ethnic Greeks of Albania. In the four years since its establishment IAOA has awarded a total of 39 prizes to eligible students.

    IAOA was founded in 1991 by late shipowner Yiannis Latsis and belongs to the Network of Latsis Foundations funded exclusively by John S. Latsis Pubic Benefit Foundation.

    [32] 20 indictments in Panagopoulos abduction case

    Twenty people will face trial on felony charges stemming from their alleged participation in a so-called "crime syndicate" behind the abduction of shipowner Periklis Panagopoulos in January 2009. Indictments were handed down on Thursday by a relevant deputy prosecutor.

    According to the prosecutor, defendant Panagiotis Vlastos held a leading role in the criminal gang, giving orders from his prison cell.

    Incarceration was extended for 13 of the 20 defendants while the rest were released on bail based on a Council of Court of Appeals Judges ruling issued a few days ago.

    [33] Tables cleared from Monastiraki's Dimopratiriou Square

    Municipal authorities in the City of Athens on Thursday began an operation to clear tables illegally put out onto the pedestrian roads around Dimopratiriou Square in Monastiraki, occupying the pavements and blocking access to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

    The operation was ordered by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who said that cafe and restaurant owners had ignored repeated recommendations from authorities to clear the roadways.

    "Owners must understand that pedestrian roads and public spaces belong to all citizens and that they have no right to obstruct their passage," deputy mayor Nikos Vafiadis said.

    Weather Forecast

    [34] Cloudy on Friday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 29C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 28C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 18C to 26C.

    [35] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The social security and labour issue, Wednesday's blocking of passengers in Piraeus port by PAME (Communist Party affiliated labor union) from boarding ferries, and revelations of scandals in public health, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "PAME acts against democracy and the government is unable to face it".

    APOGEVMATINI: "PASOK storm devastates the public sector - Layoffs of tenured civil servants".

    AVGHI: "Women in the pyre because of...longevity!"

    AVRIANI: "Prosecutor investigates hospitals after MIG president Andreas Vgenopoulos' revelations on the huge scandal with supplies".

    CHORA: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras cleans up the party - Expels those who have 'hurt' ND".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Prime Minister George Papandreou at the drop of a hat makes tours abroad - Rage over the 'recreation' trips".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The government entrapped the employees - Political scam in social security".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Social security: Changes in draft law to be finalised on Thursday at the Inner Cabinet meeting".

    ESTIA: "The British show the way: This is what cutbacks in expenditures mean".

    ETHNOS: "Judges express five objections on the social security bill - Justice sounds warning bell over the government's changes".

    IMERISSIA: "Blockades in ports torpedo tourism".

    KATHIMERINI: "Law and order disrupted in Piraeus port ".

    LOGOS: "Zero Hour for social security - Turmoil and confusion in PASOK's parliamentary group".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Euro 'surcharge' on bonds because of high debt".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Popular alliance against the big-time entrepreneurs is the only way out".

    TA NEA: "Education Ministry plans to create public schools able to compete with private schools".

    TO VIMA: "Loans in the 'red' will be now regulated by law".

    VRADYNI: "The 13th and 14th salaries (Christmas, Easter and holiday bonus) at risk - Troika presses for new cutbacks".

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